Feeling "through-other"

Imagining a rainbow through the spray


There is a commonly used Ulster expression or, better, I suppose, compound word, which is spoken across the community, as someone is described as ‘through-other’. It means looking a bit disheveled in physical appearance, and/or a little distraught mentally. It is a very descriptive way of expressing a certain mixed-up-ness that can come to us all at one time or another, and ‘through-other’ is hence best used of oneself or arising from an instinctively compassionate thought, following a “poor you!” - and only expressed to someone we probably know intimately.

This is something of through-other time of the year: winter, but not winter; nearly Advent, but not quite; remembrance over, but a bit early to be thinking of Christmas yet; this coming Sunday being the tail-end of the Trinity season, but, at the same time, reaching for the climax to end the Christian Year with the feast of Christ the King. “Stir-up” Sunday it used to be called from the opening words of the BCP Collect; is it any wonder that we might feel “through-other”?

I was watching the spray blown back from the top of a wave filling the air behind with a mist that could catch a rainbow, whilst the wave itself crashed on towards the shore. Maybe it is a tiny parable of life, as a little part of us is whisked away in one direction and catches and scatters the light in a beautiful way, whilst something else is happening that drives us on and reaches its conclusion in less of an airy-fairy manner.

Seamus Heaney spoke once of a well-known poet’s writing having a “lambency” or “skim-factor”. I think that is what I am contemplating in the mistiness of the top of a wave flung back by the wind, or the light breaking into a rainbow, or a thought that stirs something of joy within us. There can be a happiness, or perhaps contentment is a better word, in feeling a shade "through-other" that is hard to explain, but more than compensates for not being able to describe what has stirred us within, that nevertheless we know is drawing us beyond ourselves. Our readings from the Scriptural books of Daniel and Revelation, that we encounter in this closing few days of another Christian Year, do much the same.

John Mann